Friday, 4 February 2011
Review: Buried Thunder by Tim Bowler
When Maya strays into the forest, she walks straight into a nightmare.
It’s not just the horrific discovery she makes among the trees, it’s what’s waiting for her at home. Something too terrifying to believe in. She’s not even sure she believes it herself.
Perhaps she’s going mad—only imagining the sounds in the night and the feeling of being stalked. Maybe she didn’t see anything in the forest after all?
And there’s another question: what was she doing there in the first place . . . alone . . . at dusk? All she knows is that the eyes of a fox drew her there.
They will do so again.
Love horror? Getting a bit fed up with vampires, werewolves, zombies and the blood and gore their stories often contain? Well 2011 could be the year for you then, as there are a number of more traditional haunted house, ghost and psychological horror stories on the horizon. I have already featured Cliff McNish telling us about his forthcoming title The Hunting Ground, and I have just finished reading an early proof of a totally spinechilling book called Long Lankin by Lindsey Barraclough. But the first chiller I read this year, which is also the first of these to be released, was Buried Thunder by the brilliant Tim Bowler, officially published by OUP on today.
Tim Bowler is a name that should be up there with the likes of Darren Shan, William Hussey and Charlie Higson, but for some unknown reason he has yet to make the leap to stella stardom that these other horror authors have made. Maybe it is because his books are so different from these, very much relying on the psychological aspects of the horror story; the kind of stuff that made Stephen King such a successful author. I think many young people today have a view that horror equals blood and guts, or one of those aforementioned classic monster types, and therefore view books like Buried Thunder as thrillers instead. However, many of the more popular adult horror authors such as King and James Herbert have built their careers on just this kind of writing. Like these authors, instead of gore Tim Bowler fills his stories with atmosphere, and in doing so creates a feeling of creeping dread within the reader from the very first page, a dread that lasts well beyond the end of the story.
However you label Buried Thunder, be it horror or psychological thriller, it is still pretty damn unsettling. It tells the story of Maya, a fourteen year old girl who has just moved to the countryside with her parents and brother, as they start their new life running a small hotel. Tim Bowler doesn't waste any time introducing characters or back story, instead on the very first page he has Maya stumbling across several bodies in the local woods, bodies that there are no sign of later when the police begin their search of the area. Even worse, one of the investigating police constables is the spitting image of one of these bodies.
Immediately our minds and filled with questions: Is Maya going mad? Has she had some kind of premonition? These questions and more play on the mind all the way through the book, and just as it seems an answer is looming and the evil machinations of a particular character revealed, Tim Bowler adds a deft twist to the plot and someone/something else comes under suspicion. And what's more - not all of these questions are answered come the end of the story and the author leaves the reader to come to their own conclusions regarding the meaning behind some of the more supernatural elements of the story. I know some readers will not like this but I thought it was inspired - it left me thinking about the book for some time after. Add to this mix a handful of rather strange and sinister characters, animal mutilations, and scratching noises at Maya's bedroom door during the night and you can't help but fear that the ending may not be a good one for Maya or her family. And as with some of Tim Bowler's previous books there are strong mystical elements to this story which keep the reader hooked from the very offset, desperate to discover just what the hell is going on.
As I was reading this book I couldn't help but think about some of the classic serials that the BBC used to show in their 4-6pm slots back in the 1970s and 1980s, some of which were adaptations of books. I'm thinking serials such as The Owl Service, Moondial, Children of the Stones, and many others that I enjoyed at the time but for the life of me cannot remember the titles of now. Buried Thunder is very similar in nature to these old school stories, some of which were very scary at the time, although not having watched children's TV for some time I have no idea if dramas like this are made these days.
I have not read many of Tim Bowler's books but Buried Thunder has certainly made me want to hunt more of these out. If you want more information about his work then why not do as I did and pop over to his website at http://www.timbowler.co.uk where, with a little hunting, you will also be able to find a short video clip of Tim reading an extract from Buried Thunder. My thanks go to Michelle Harrison at OUP for sending me a copy of this book.